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Has childhood obesity in Britain been socially constructed?

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Contents Introduction page 2 Argument page 4 Conclusion page 9 Bibliography page 10 Introduction Has childhood obesity in Britain been socially constructed? Increasing rates of obesity appear to be common to the process of industrialisation and have been linked with many factors, including a more sedentary lifestyle and diets high in fat and sugars and an abundance of food. (Gordon, Richard, 2000) The number of children suffering from obesity has increased dramatically since the mid 1980's in the UK. However this is not just a UK problem but also a global issue. Results in America have shown that the numbers with obesity have doubled since 1980. (Brown, Liz, 2001) Obesity is defined as "An abnormal accumulation of body fat usually 20% or more over an individuals ideal body weight. Obesity is associated with the increased risk of illness, disability, and death."(Gale Encyclopedia of Alternative Medicine online) Although there is not one definitive method of calculating obesity, one method calculates body mass index (BMI). This is calculated by squaring height (in metres) and dividing weight (in Kg) by this figure. If the BMI is 30 or over that indicates obesity, this is true for adults. For children one way is to calculate the BMI and then use the following table to determine if the child is obese. Age Boys are overweight if BMI exceeds: Girls are overweight if BMI exceeds: Boys are obese if BMI exceeds: Girls are obese if BMI exceeds: 5 17.4 17.1 19.3 19.2 6 17.6 17.3 19.8 19.7 7 17.9 17.8 20.6 20.5 8 18.4 18.3 21.6 21.6 9 19.1 19.1 22.8 22.8 10 19.8 19.9 ...read more.


(Gunter, Barrie, 1998). Children are very easily influenced by the magic of adverts and put pressure on their parents to buy the products. Also there have been several changes to the laws concerning education that may have had an affect on the levels of obesity. Free education was available to elementary children from 1891.As was found at the time of the Boer War when many conscripts were found to be too malnourished and physically unfit to fight in the war (Fraser, Derek, 1984), it soon became apparent that children were not able to be educated properly if they were in poor health. This was especially true for the lower class where many children were starving. The government therefore introduced legislation in 1906 to authorise the LEAs to spend public money on meals for undernourished children. Following the Beveridge Report, which was seen as a cradle to grave provision came the main Education Act in 1944. In this it gave free compulsory education from the age of five to fifteen. Services for free milk and medical and dental treatment were provided and school meals were to be provided for all children who wanted them. This was as a result of the deficiency in education that had been revealed by the evacuation of children in cities during the war. (Fraser, Derek, 1984) These services were later reduced and in 1980 and 1986 the obligation to provide free school milk and to provide school meals was removed. Nowadays there is no obligation to supply free school milk or meals to any child. ...read more.


Walk to school weeks should be encouraged; any introduction to physical activity is help. (www.aso.org.uk) Conclusion Society and modernisation has been seen as a cause of obesity. Our ancestors ate high calorie foods and fats in order to manage in times when food was scarce, this was a necessity. Therefore evolutionarily we had been encouraged to eat fats in order to survive. Nowadays we do not have the scarcity of food and in the UK food is available all year round. The environment has changed dramatically only in the last hundred years yet evolution takes millions of years. It will therefore be a very long time before our evolutionary genes have caught up with today's environment. Our genes are still programmed to the ancient environment and the need to eat fats etc. (Brownell, Kelly, 1998) It has been shown that reduced activity that has been a major consequence of modernisation by the introduction of labour saving devices and the automation of labour has been an important cause of obesity. The basic equation that governs weight changes i.e. the difference between the amounts of energy consumed and the energy used, is fundamental. Today's more sedentary society has to re-adjust the equation if it is to reduce the numbers suffering from obesity. (Gordon, Richard, 2000) Some of the policies mentioned as a method to combat obesity are already being used and are raising the awareness of the problem. Social policies by the government are required. However, some policies that have been introduced for the good such as the laissez-faire and encouraging competition as a way to improve things have also had a disastrous effect on other issues. ...read more.

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